Monthly Archives: October 2011

Dress for Success on the Bicycle

There’s a new CEO at my company and I had a private meeting scheduled with him today. A single hour to dazzle him with deep insights, brilliant program ideas and report my team’s amazing results. So, what to wear? And which bike to ride? Decisions, decisons.

If I had listened to the recent “sometimes you just need a car” ads from the Zipcar car sharing service, I would have driven in to work this morning. After all, in today’s job market you can’t risk not impressing the new CEO. And how could anyone possibly suit up and carry a laptop on a bike?

Instead of getting indignant at Zipcar’s limited view of the bicycle’s utility, I took it as a challenge. I’ve already ridden my bike in professional dress to a meeting at our PR firm and to a pub for a beer after work with an alliance partner. But a suit with a narrow skirt? That’s the real challenge, not the heels and the laptop.

So I dug through my closet for a narrow skirt that had a chance of being rideable and found this one with a cute border of pleats along the back hem.

Then I hopped on Juliett, my Dutch bike, and gave it a test spin around the cul-de-sac. Success! Between Juliett’s step through frame and upright position, and those cute little pleats, I pedaled to work feeling confident, successful and ready to impress the new CEO.


As I strapped my ordinary laptop messenger bag onto Juliett, though, I decided we need a more stylish bag, like these from Dutch company FastRider. Which one do you think is stylish enough for the ever fashionable Juliett? Tell me quick, cause it may take a while to track down where I can buy it.


Whisked Away by a Knight on a White Bike

I’m girl enough to have grown up with fantasies of the knight in shining armor whisking me away on his white horse. And I’m old enough to have watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in reruns on cable. Do you remember that movie, with its sweet scene where Paul Newman whisks Katharine Ross away on his bicycle to BJ Thomas’ “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head”? Talk about making a young girl swoon.

Which is one reason it disturbed me (and plenty others) to read about General Motors’s latest ad promoting car sales to college students. The message: guys on bikes are losers who will never get the hot chicks.

Boy, did this ad create a stir. By the time I write this, the bike blogosphere is fully aflame. Some bloggers protested that guys who ride bikes have fabulous bodies that make them super SEXY, others complained about GM encouraging young adults saddled with school loans to take on additional car loans they can ill afford. GM desperately backpedaled and discontinued the ads. A sure sign that bike culture is gaining momentum.

But as a woman who fell in love with her bike as a girl, then fell in love with a man on a bike as an adult, the ad seemed like a throwback to values from an era between Butch Cassidy and today.

I met my husband through bicycling, and fell in love with him not because he had a hot bod or because he was outsprinting the pack or even because he was saving the planet. I fell in love with him in part because he was a gentleman on the bicycle. When I met him I was training for my first triathlon and hadn’t tackled any of the backroads climbs that are expected in our area. So when he asked me out for a first date, a ride that included climbing Old La Honda, I said yes with excitement, but was instantly nervous.

Old La Honda Road is 3.3 miles long and climbs over 1300 feet. I had only done it once before on a group ride, where I quickly learned that climbing is not my strong point. My big question: should I climb hard on the date so as not to embarrass myself, or should I keep my pace at a level where he wouldn’t have to yell over my heavy breathing?

I chose the latter, and I swear he had to track stand on a couple of steep switchbacks since his lowest gear was a 39×26. But he stayed with me, chatting away, even when hardcore riders with training goals and big egos whizzed by us. Now that’s sexy. And that’s why there was a second, third and fourth date, why I married him and why we still ride together.

I think GM could learn a thing or two watching reruns on cable of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. After all, Katharine Ross hopped out of bed with Robert Redford to ride off with Paul Newman.

It must have been the bike.

What do you find sexiest about a guy (or a girl) on a bike?


Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Issues & Infrastructure


It’s a Dog’s Life in My Neighborhood

Some of the things I love most about riding my bike are the things I see only because I’m moving at bike speed. The little kids holding tight to their parents’ hands walking to school, the older kids on the ball fields practicing sports after school, and the old folks shuffling down the sidewalks throughout the day. But no matter how early I leave for work, how late I come home or how cold or wet it is, I can always count on seeing these intrepid folks–the dogs and their walkers.

Dog owners know that dogs aren’t happy unless they get out and explore their world, weather be damned. So on a misty wet day like today dog owners grab their umbrellas, and when the cold sets in they grab their heavy coats ’cause dogs just gotta do the dog thing every day.

Like Maddie. She leads her guardian Randy down the sidewalk when they go out on his trike. I assumed Maddie would sometimes ride in the trike’s basket. But no, Randy says Maddie has to be out front at all times, so he carries her when she gets tired.

Then there’s Eggie and her terrier Honey. Eggie and I worked at the same company years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her out early on the baylands trails with Honey, even in the dead of winter when my friends and I were training for cyclocross. And now I see them both right here in my neighborhood too. Terriers like to have a big range to roam.

I wish I had more photos to show you of all the other dogs: a pair of graceful rescue greyhounds and the elegant older woman who walks them, the big white husky that a husband and wife team take out together every morning, the frisky chihuahua with the burly Latino man. They make me smile as I pedal past.

What makes you smile on your commute to work?


Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Around Town


Farewell to a Visionary

The drizzle today only seemed fitting for paying my respects to a man who epitomized the spirit of Silicon Valley: be bold, be daring and follow your vision, not your critics. Or worse, your competitors.

I may have graduated with honors with a degree in Computer Science, but when it comes down to it I’m not a computer geek, or even a gadget head. I actually cried the first time I was forced to use a computer in college. What attracted me in the end to Computer Science was the elegance of expressing an algorithm through code. Good code is like good writing: clear, concise and well organized in its message. That’s good design, and that’s what Steve Jobs demanded.


Like so many others, what I appreciate about Apple products, which are all Steve’s babies, is their simplicity. Rather than offering you a hundred options, they know what you want. Rather than being clever, they let you be clever. Rather than being made in the image of the engineers that built them, they were made in the image of the non-geeks who bought them. In droves.

That’s me, the non-geek whose iPhone is her most valued material possession (don’t tell my bikes). I use my phone to connect with my husband, check in with friends on Facebook, record what I see with an amazing camera, find my way across town with Google maps and journal my life through this blog. With just my iPhone I was able to create this whole blog entry: taking photos, cropping them with PS mobile, composing copy and uploading it all with the WordPress mobile app.

Thank you, Steve. You make me clever. And judging by the little memorial your fans have created outside your Palo Alto home, I’m not the only one you touched.

Who are your heroes?

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Other Stuff


Jerry, Jerry, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Jerry, Jerry, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

How could you veto SB 910, the safe bicycle passing bill? The bill simply clarified to drivers how to pass safely with three clear instructions:

(1) Leave a buffer of three or more feet between your vehicle and the bike you’re passing.
(2) If the road has a double yellow center line, you can cross the center line to pass, provided there’s not oncoming traffic or other dangers.
(3) If you’re driving slower than 15 mph, you can pass closer than three feet.

What’s so wrong with this? It’s what 95% of drivers–the safe ones–have been doing forever. Even when it meant breaking the law, which currently doesn’t allow crossing the double yellow line, not even on rural two lane roads without turnouts.

Requiring a three foot buffer has been legislated in 20 other states, including my home state of Louisiana, with no ill effects reported. Sometimes illegal three foot passing is the only violation they can pin on drivers who hit cyclists from behind, like Jan Morgan, a severely injured triathlete in Mississippi. But that’s another sad story.

For me, what was worse than the veto was Governor Brown’s illogical reasoning: that drivers who slow down and wait until they can safely pass would cause rear end collisions. What?! Drivers slow down on roads all the time to maintain safety: for yellow lights, for cars slowing to turn right, for garbage trucks and postal vans. In fact, cars turning left often stop–in the left lane for christsakes–until the opposite traffic is clear, forcing all vehicles behind them to STOP, not just slow down.

I think the real reason he vetoed the bill was in deference to the California Highway Patrol, which opposed the bill, even though the bill included their recommended provision to allow crossing the double yellow center line. Maybe I should have said “CHP, CHP, why have you forsaken me?”

Why would a government agency dedicated to ensuring public safety on the roadways not be interested in ensuring safety for ALL roadway users? The only answer I can come up with is that like many drivers, the CHP considers cyclists on the roadway a nuisance and they secretly wish we would all go away. Maybe they’re hoping the unsafe drivers who buzz by us will scare us off the road, forever.

Someone please tell me this isn’t so, ’cause I’m losing faith.


Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Issues & Infrastructure


Roadside Attractions: The Hidden Grotto

If you’re a roadie living on the San Francisco Peninsula, I’m sure you’ve ridden over this little stone bridge and I bet never noticed anything odd about it. Like me, you were probably focused on the climb ahead, perhaps hitting the lap timer on your bike computer or heart rate monitor to record your time up the hill.

Last week, I gave the bridge an extra look and discovered that the stones were fake. Not fake like concrete-shaped-into-stone fake, which is pretty common in our landslide-prone hills, but fake as in thin-mortar-over-a-wire-mesh fake.

What’s more, under the bridge there is more fake rock, a grotto of sorts. A rider waiting for a friend encouraged us to go down and it check out. He said it was built as a movie set, but I don’t think he was right.

An Internet search led me to the story of the massive Schilling estate that included this bridge. August Schilling, best known for his spice and extract empire, was also a garden aficionado who reworked the redwood and oak forests on his estate to suit his sensibilities. That meant ponds, cascades, pergolas, manicured lawns, extensive flower gardens–and fake rocks built by master craftsmen.

Schilling employed up to 60 gardeners who made sure there wasn’t a leaf out of place on his 150 acre estate. But after Schilling died in 1934, the grand house fell into disrepair. It was torn down in 1952, but the rocks live on. And if you’re a Peninsula roadie, you’ve probably ridden through it all without realizing it.

For the locals: Have you guessed where this “stone” bridge is located? (see comments for the location)

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Posted by on October 8, 2011 in Backroads, Local History


Fashion Friday: Yellow Rain Slickers

When the sky turns gray and the rain comes down, sunshine yellow brightens the day for both Zella and me.


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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Cycle Fashions


Gear Talk: Waterproof Panniers (or not)

Rain, rain, go away! But not before I test all my new rain gear. For the past couple of days I got my timing right and dodged the raindrops. But the steady ting-ting of raindrops on the skylight this morning signaled the moment of truth: would I ride to work in the rain?

Given all my new gear, I had to ride, and given this is California, the rain let up about 10 minutes into my ride. So I pulled over and tucked my nifty Dutch rain coat in my nifty bright yellow Dutch panniers.

Now the rain is over and the 10 day forecast shows nothing but sun. Yay! During the post-rain cleanup I decided to test the limits of my panniers. Just how waterproof are they anyway? Was I putting my laptop at risk riding in the rain? A garden hose, a stack of newspapers, a cooperative husband and an iPhone video later and I had my answer.

Have you ever done some crazy field testing of new equipment? Were the results accurate?

Note: Due to technical difficulties, the audio got dropped in the second half of the video. Do not adjust your player. What you missed were comments about the newspaper being completely dry even though I forgot to pull out the side flaps.

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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Gear Talk


Gear Talk: Head to Toe Rain Coverage

The rainy season has come early to the San Francisco Bay Area this year, so I’m glad I brought home some great bike rain gear from Amsterdam. But I already owned a crucial piece of rain gear, made right here in the USA–my wool cycling cap.

If I’d never learned how awesome a wool cycling cap is in the rain, I’d probably would have bought a helmet cover, like my friend Julie did. Julie is a mountain biker forced onto the road for her work commute. Last year, she posted this photo on Facebook with the caption: “As if road riding wasn’t dorky enough as it is…”

You’re right Julie. Like most gear aimed at commuters, helmet covers are dorky. And they really don’t do the job anyway. They trap heat inside so your head gets clammy and your hair is still exposed to the rain. I stepped in with a little advice: “Darlin, you are in desperate need of a street style makeover! Return that plastic bag and buy a wool cycling cap today. I promise it will keep your head dry and your ‘do intact.”

What I didn’t do was show her how my wool cap works. So here’s to you, Julie, and all the other bike commuters looking for a better way to keep their heads dry in the rain.

Step 1: Tuck your hair into a classic small brimmed wool cycling cap, like my three panel cap from Walz. Why wool? Wool keeps you warm, but breathes so there’s no moisture build-up. There’s nothing like wool for keeping you comfy, regardless of the temperature.


Step 2: Add helmet. Cycling caps are close fitting, so helmets with adjustable retention systems have no problem fitting over the cap. This arrangement will get you through the typical Bay Area wimpy rainstorm.


Step 3: If it’s really pouring, you can always pull up the hood from your rain coat or jacket. But honestly, this level of coverage is rarely needed, at least not in the South Bay.


Since we’ve got our heads covered (pun intended), let’s move down to toes. There are all kinds of booties for sale and I have some I use on my road bike with clipless pedals. But for commuting on a bike with fenders and flat pedals like Zella Mae, who needs them? Leather boots do the trick, with tights on cold days or without on days like today when it only pretended to be chilly.

Leather and wool, two classic materials that kick butt when it comes to wet weather riding.

What’s your strategy for staying dry in the rainy season? Is there a critical piece of gear that works for you?



Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Gear Talk


The Pothole that Made the New York Times

It’s not every day when someone’s ride report makes the New York Times. Some writers obviously have connections. The gist of the story: rider crashes on a technical descent, hits his head so he can’t remember what happened, and GPS data helps him piece together the scant details. In the end, he fingered a pothole.

I don’t know if the typical New York Times reader found the article interesting, but as a cyclist who regularly descends this particular road I was intrigued. So on Sunday, when we headed down La Honda Road (known locally as Highway 84) I flipped on my GoPro camera and kept an eye out for the nasty pothole. I found this:

But was this the pothole? While I don’t have the author’s GPS data, the story featured a graphic showing where on the road the GPS data flatlined. And I had my video of the descent showing the road, turn by turn. After matching the turns, I think the newly repaired pothole at 1:52 in the video below is guilty as charged.

Do you think this is the pothole? If so, do you think it would have been filled so quickly if it hadn’t made the New York Times?

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Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Backroads

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